This Is 31, Part 4

“Playtyme Is Over”

By age thirteen, I strongly felt the need to defend myself — particularly my lifestyle choices — to my peers, relatives, and the random inquisitive stranger. For whatever reason, people (adults included) had no problem poking fun at and/or scrutinizing how I carried myself, when and where I went to church, what I liked and disliked . . . You name it, I defended it. (Sometimes violently, but we won’t get into that right now.)

Bear in mind, this was the earliest point in my life where I recall tackling faith,Β friendship, and ultimately, what was most important to me. It was a season marked by the age-old questions that every teenager comes face-to-face with: “Should I follow the crowd? Or should I go my own way?”

I chose to go my own way . . . And a confident, high-achieving ball of fire in a tea- to ankle-length skirt was born. I became what everyone knew as “the church girl.”

“[I] Got It”

When high school rolled around, many of my classmates had already figured out that, with me, what you see is what you get; but that didn’t make me any less of a target for bullying. The class clowns were more inclined to make the same old and tired jokes . . . because where’s the fun in just accepting someone who’s not like you? If jokes weren’t enough, I could always count on the occasional unsolicited comments that served no other purpose than to make me feel uncomfortable. By and large, this was the worse kind of attention I received, but in the end, I got the last laugh.

At graduation, I stood in front of my family, friends, and hundreds of others and gave my valedictorian speech. At the heart of it was a declaration of freedom from everything and everyone that tried to kill my self esteem; and in that moment, I never felt more confident in all the life decisions I’d made up to that point.

[Side note: I’m currently willing that girl back to life.]

“The Journey”

Years later, college came with its own set of challenges as I defended everything from my choice in music to my stance on drinking, politics, and religion. Again, for whatever reason, I was always the odd ball in whatever circle I found myself in — even among other believers. (Lame, right?) Be that as it may, I learned to roll with the status quo — at least until grad school came around . . .

Somewhere between listening to lectures and spending an overwhelming amount of time with people who held very strong opinions about anyone who didn’t share their values, I learned to keep quiet and lay low . . . aka do everything in my power to not draw attention to myself. As a result, I temporarily lost my voice and parts of my identity.

If I regret anything from those days, it was my inability to just be me and stand by my convictions without fear of criticism. Let’s just say that I learned my lesson by the end of my final semester . . .

“Introducing [TD]x” (LOL)

These days, I have few words for people who try to make me feel uncomfortable in my own skin. Bottom line: I do what I want . . . I can’t be placed in a box . . . And if my lifestyle choices bring out another person’s insecurities, it’s really not my problem . . . I feel a rant coming on, so let’s just hear it:

I don’t drink alcohol, go to clubs, laugh at crude jokes, or use profanity; and that’s okay. I don’t have a problem with doing things alone; and that’s okay. I tend to follow the rules; and that’s okay. My idea of success looks different than most; and that’s okay. Some days, I choose to wear my hair naturally; and that’s okay. I don’t own a TV; and that’s okay. I don’t geek out over the latest diet trends; and that’s okay. I’m not easily influenced; and that’s okay. I believe in Jesus Christ; and that’s more than okay.

I grew up in an Apostolic Pentecostal church, but I have attitudes, tastes, and values that don’t align with it. Moreover, if I choose to do or not do something, my decisions are not always based on a set of religious beliefs or practices . . .

It’s simple. I can choose to do (or not do) what I want; and if anything about my lifestyle needs to change, that’s not for anyone else to decide.

And there you have it. The fourth installment of the This Is 31 series. Thanks for reading . . . and kudos to anyone who recognizes the underlying theme of the headers in this post. πŸ™‚

Personal-Logo_Name1 trdrdn

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